Dear Diary…you meet such interesting people in dungeons

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Against the Giants”

Ezekiel went with Aliana and Princess Shallaria to Gorna, since he wants a professional’s opinion on all our potions we’ve amassed over the years, and I suppose it’s true we’re rich enough to afford that. He hopes someone can recommend a professional in Gorna.

Miss Dree had some exciting news to share with us. She says she and Miss Lysa and the super-energetic guy whose name I forget have been casting Cure Minor Wounds this morning. She says she felt “a stirring in her spirit” yesterday, and after her prayer time this morning (where she always asks for spells, since Father Ezekiel says just because you don’t receive is no reason to not ask) she tried the chant on Miss Lysa’s scraped knuckles, and the power was granted. I have never seen Miss Lysa so excited and forget herself so much that she explained the whole story to us again herself.

(Ragni and Agni have set up a sort of little catapult in the tree house, and have been chucking over-ripe fruit at the druid grove. Madam Moonwhisper assured me they grew some protective boughs and no one could actually be hit, but Leomas said she’s been knocked unconcious multiple times and showed me a broken pumpkin to prove it. I said the pumpkin must be what she used to think with, since it was too big to fit in the catapult, and she was half transformed into a panther when Madam Moonwhisper said Leomas was the one who told her about the ring of truth, and she should have known she couldn’t pull my leg (makes sense that’s why I actually said that out loud…). I asked Ragni and Agni to take it easy on the druids, and besides it’s the pass that enters the valley that we need to defend, and Ragni got very red and said Sirion and Usin made strict rules about firing at the pass after some pilgrims came to be healed of a disease and also needed baths once they got to the fortress. I’m so glad I warned Sirion about the Frost Giants that will be moving in nearby…I can just picture the entire mountain sliding down into the valley, with a sound of soft explosions, strewing rotten apples in its wake… Ezekiel would probably tell me that’s beyond Ragni and Agni’s capabilites, but I’m really not sure.)

Anyway, when Ez and Aliana get back, we leave for the giant fortress. Might not exactly be an early start, but we’re making the effort.

**

We started big, by investgating the wall opposite the illusion that led to the temple. Ezekiel hadn’t seen anything specific while looking at it through the gem; it just made his skin crawl, he said.

We started off by just looking at it…it seemed made of brownish purpleish stone, which really gives the impression of fungus – but not any normal kind of fungus. I wanted to poke it with an arrow, to see if the surface was really solid, but I was invisible…so I asked Heiron to do it, so we could actually see the results.

The wall reacted by spitting out a purpley tentacle, grapping Heiron’s wrist, and trying to pull him toward a gross, clicking, beak-like mouth. No one touches our Heiron – we all sprang into action. But it was the weirdest, grossest thing we’ve seen in a long time. Even Aliana’s sword seemed to bounce off it, like the wall was a giant rubber sheet. I pelted it with arrows, but again, they seemed to not so much as tickle it.

Agnar managed to do something to it…and it lashed him with a couple more tentacles. I think there were ten or twelve flailing about, with unnerving movement patterns. A couple of them grabbed Oaklock and smashed him against the floor, but Ezekiel pulled him away.

Nothing seemed to bother it much (although Tressarian worked better than my bow – maybe it was something to do with magic weapons) until Lydia muttered something and threw out her hand…and the whole thing collapsed and faded. Agnar says in all his uncle’s stories of the underdark, he never heard of anything like this. Lydia thinks it was partly enchantment, since Dispell Magic is what killed it, but she admits it was a shot in the dark, since she’s never seen something like it before.

Once it was dead, we saw the wall was actually a “curtain” of sorts, concealing a suite behind. Maybe those Evil rings the drow had would have let them pass it, like the statues and the violet fungus in the Temple of Elemental Evil, but I for one am not interested in experimenting…even if we hadn’t already killed it.

The cleric types passed around healing, since those tentacles were deceptively strong, and I think they even had hooks or suckers on them that left little welts, so the front-line fighters were pretty hard-up. When we felt up to it, we moved in to the suite, checking for enemies and traps as we went (meaning, Raven checked for traps).

There’s a two-room suite, with a sitting room full of black candles (unlit), ebony couches inlaid with silver, jasper basins, black carpet and purple wall hangings – yes, when they pick a design theme, they commit.

Behind a tapestry is a bedroom…strangely, the candles there were lit – again burning with that eery purple fire – but everything else looked abandoned. We found some pouches still full of money and gems, and even a couple cleric scrolls (one of them locked in a trapped coffer). The bedroom also has a large silver mirror, a dressing screen, a cabinet, bed, and side table – all the furniture made out of ebony or black stone. Also some tapestries, but by the time I got to the bedroom Aliana had sliced and shredded them into fine strips.

Ezekiel is probably right that some of the drow are still alive, but if so then they haven’t ransacked this suite. They even left the priest-garments in the wardrobe (Ez pointed out that these were embroidered with gold and gems, while the drow we killed yesterday were dressed in silver-trimmed robes. All of them a bizarre mauve color, of course. It’s like shades of purple are the only colors Drow like). I wondered if these rooms were always here for guest quarters, or if the giants carved them out specifically to host the drow. Probably doesn’t matter too much.

Finally, there’s a secret door and spy-hole at the back of the bedroom. Ezekiel thinks there’s a fire giant on the other side. We’ve decided to go the long way around, and are returning to the corridor. This black-and-purple room has me on edge…

**

Rescuing prisoners has been a mixed bag today.

Just as we left the drow suite, a boom seemed to shake the whole fortress. We didn’t know what it was yet, of course, but we wanted to find anyone who needed rescuing before the fortress collasped or something.

The first cell we came to that was locked gave no trouble to Raven’s lockpicking skills, but it did prove beyond us to pull it open. The inhabitant of the cell, however, kicked the door open and turned out to be two centaurs. They were somewhat discombobulated at seeing us, but Mikael spoke centaur to them and Raven offered them rations, and when we convinced them we were the good guys, they offered a prayer to Beori and ate the rations before we gave them directions to the stairs up and out (possibly also telling them about one of the armories on their way, but I’m not sure). They were anxious to not spend any more time in the fortress than necessary.

The next cell was more…disappointing. It was the cell behind the drow’s secret peephole, and as Ezekiel had supposed, it held a fire giant. But he didn’t let us kill it. The giant said he was a disgraced lieutenant of Snuri’s, and Ezekiel offered him a deal – open the doors for us in exchange for food.

Well the next cell held a maddened troll that jumped on Ezekiel as soon as the door was open…but Mikael told our giant he could eat it, so he bit its head off about that quickly. I think Mikael and I have some different understandings about the natural order of things.

In the next cell, we found a gnoll that had been taking liberties with his cell mates, also gnolls, both deceased. We kept the fire giant from eating the live one, though he snagged a leg of gnoll after the survivor ran off. I wanted to throw up in my mouth about that time, but then the hall shook with another booming crash, and that effectively distracted me and we hurried on to open all the doors.

Next door held some human corpses beyond even Ezekiel’s help. The door after that opened to reveal a human woman chained to the wall. I finally got a pay-off for lugging Markessa’s clothes around in my bag for all this time, and I let Ezekiel and Clatrial take care of them. The young lady (Gareth, from the Yeomanry) is not a demon, and seems pretty well-adjusted for being captured and imprisoned by giants and gnolls. Ezekiel talked to her for a bit, and we convinced Clatriel to stick by her side. Clatrial would make anyone feel more at ease, and besides…once bit, three times shy.

Finally, finally, we found the cell door that Raven thought the booming noises came from. Our “pet” fire giant seemed to think so, too. He asked Ezekiel if his obligation was fulfilled, and so as soon as he cracked the door open, he took off down the hall.

Inside was a figure like a man, chained to the wall…only what a man. He had to be 19 or 20 feet tall if he was an inch. I’ve heard of his kind…Titan. They’re a type of giant that lives on the Upper Plains, and much more magical than the standard kinds.

Once I told Ezekiel that’s what he was, he got very excited. The Titan didn’t seem to be feeling well, so Mikael cast Neutralize Poison…and the effect was almost instantaneous. The Titan introduced himself as Kendar, and chuckled a little when Ezekiel introduced himself as the “Arbiter” of the God of gods. Once he was unchained and came out into the hall, he could stand up straight and stretch a little. He asked if anyone needed healing, but even he couldn’t do anything for the desiccated human corpses in the one cell. He did agree to come with us to help open doors so we could rescue any more prisoners that might be here.

The guardroom was at the far end of the hallway. It held assorted furniture – large and small, so maybe the gnolls were sometimes guards as well as prisoners – plus some kegs and unlit torches. Ezekiel’s gem found a loose stone in the corner, which uncovered a chute of some kind…maybe more of a narrow tunnel – too narrow even for me – that wound back and forth into the darkness and stank of rats. Mikael crawled a little way along as a bat, and said something was squeaking in there – and sharpening a knife. We decided maybe some kind of humanoid rat could use tools, but we also decided they probably weren’t connected with the giants and the drow, and we needn’t waste any more time on them.

The giants had a torture chamber in a huge natural cavern to the south. The only vaguely interesting thing was a couple pieces of jewelry somebody dropped next to a knucklebones game. I guess when we came stomping downstairs and killing everything yesterday, the guards abandoned their game. Don’t have time to destroy all the yucky, pokey things in there.

The next room was…I guess a tomb. The walls were lined with huge (giant-sized) sarcophagi, all carved with images of kings or queens. They were all different materials, too – stone, bronze, iron… On the floor lay four stone sarcophagi, two of them still blank. It could be those were for the current king and queen, but we didn’t disturb them to see if we recognized King Snuri. Fire Giants are Evil, and a menace, but I’ve nothing against them being properly buried.

A smithy, in the room with the open lava, and a barracks equipped with straw and hides, rounded out the rest of the floor. We weren’t ready to call it quits for the day, so we headed down the stairs across from the morgue – with Gareth toward the back, to keep her more safe. I don’t like dragging rescued prisoners around the dungeon with us, but sometimes there’s no better option.

As we descended, the workmanship of the passage changed. Above, it is smooth and clearly worked…below, the walls are rough and irregular, like natural cave formations. At the bottom of the stairs, Master Kendar helped us open a pair of enormous iron doors, and then we were confronted with three branching passages…again, all looking more like natural cave tunnels rather than something built by people.

We picked the right passage on principle, and followed it along, past stalactites (not alive this time), and water dripping quietly into pools, until we reached a cavern so tall our lights just barely reached the ceiling. A thick pillar supported the roof in the center, while between it and us – we saw a huge pile of coins, with a red dragon coiled on top, apparently asleep.

We held a quick whispered counsel, and arranged ourselves so that those least resistant to fire would be behind it, and those more resistant would hold its attention. Tressarian let me loan him to Clatriel, so he could protect her while she charged with the front line. I suppose we should have known something was up, when the dragon didn’t seem to notice all our loud whispering, and our attempts to tip-toe in full armor (Aliana is a remarkable person, but she doesn’t tip-toe).

Well, Mikael gave the signal by starting to cast his spell (he had a spell he thought could kill the dragon that he wanted to try), so as he waved his mistletoe and chanted, the rest of us sprang into action. Lydia waved a wand and shot a flurry of ice shards at it, while Oaklock swung his sword at its tail (I think it bounced off the scales, but I couldn’t see very well).

The dragon swung its head around (precisely what we didn’t want it to do) and blew at Oaklock…only it didn’t blow fire. I don’t know what it blew, but it looked like sparkles or grey dust or something, and Oaklock threw up his arm to shield his eyes. Ezekiel shouted something about that not being fair – but before he could do more, Aliana stabbed it so that it died.

We circled the pile a few times, trying to figure out what felt off about all this…until Ezekiel used his very most favorite magic item, and told us it was actually a gorgon (not deceased) hiding under an illusion of a red dragon (complete with hoard). Lydia and Aliana say a gorgon is a creature of fae that can turn people to stone with their breath, so we’re all really lucky that it didn’t take on Master Oaklock. (I think it’s redundant…we already have medusai, and basalisks, we don’t need yet another thing that turns flesh to stone! But they didn’t ask me.)

Master Kendar said it was about time for him to leave – the passages were getting cramped for him, and we hadn’t found any fire giants for him to fight, so he would take his leave. But first he pointed out the ring Ezekiel was wearing – the ring with a fish, a star, and a whirlwind carved on it – and said it reminded him of the fisherman who fished up the Prince of Fishes, and the child who wished on the first star of the evening, and king who met a jinn in the desert. And he said that another gold ring we had found was magical had a “similar power” in it, though he couldn’t tell more just by looking at it.

We agreed that information was a princely reward for letting him out of the cell, and after he vanished we set those rings aside in a separate pocket to take a closer look at them later. But the day was not quite done yet.

The floor of the cavern had enough sand and dirt that I could pick out footprints – mostly giant, though a few of them were elf-sized. Most of the footprints through this cave led on through an open doorway, but a handful led up to a huge boulder sitting against the wall…almost as though it were blocking something in the wall.

Ezekiel and Mikael with their gauntlets of strength, along with Agnar and Aliana, managed to scoot the boulder out into the room a few feet…and immediately a blast of flame exploded in our faces. I’m glad Clatrial was still holding Tressarian…and so is he, because it means they were able to stab the actual, real, legit red dragon as it shoved its head out through the hole in the wall. Agnar and Ezekiel hit it, too. It seems anti-climactic to say we killed a dragon in under a minute…but when you consider it could kill us in under a minute, too, if the tables were just slightly turned, I think it’s perfectly fair.

After Ezekiel and Mikael healed everyone’s burns, we poked our noses past the dragon’s body into his chamber. It was barely big enough for him, and the floor was strewn with coins, gems, and various other expensive things. With that, we agreed it was time to go home for the day – so Lydia opened the portal, and summoned some disciples to help ferry the treasure to Haven.

Gareth says she came here for Snuri’s treasure, but didn’t get that far…but surely we must have a vault in our fortress, right? I was gratified Ezekiel didn’t offer to show it to her, but he did assure her we could get her safely on her way home, and provision her appropriately. She mentioned some pirate king who’s supposed to have an enormous hoard of treasure…I really don’t know about that girl. Not sure her sense of self-preservation is functioning properly.

The most interesting thing from the hoard so far is probably an ancient longsword, etched with runes. I don’t recognize the make, but the scabbard seems to be from a red dragon hide, and adorned with gems. Ezekiel says that when he held it, he got a distinct feeling of satisfaction about the nearby dragon corpse. It doesn’t seem magical, but there’s more to quality than magic, I guess. Tressarian would be anxious if he heard me talking like that.

Found a note to myself – collect the magic silver mirror from the quarters upstairs. Lydia says she can adjust the portal once we finish clearing out this collection.


Find the previous entry here.

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